For the longest time, I've wondered about perfect, about this command to be perfect. About the "perfect" example set by Christ to be, well, perfect. It's only in the past couple of weeks that I've finally come to understand anything. And what I've come to is this:
Jesus wasn't perfect.
Shocking, I know. If you're like me and you know a thing or two about this Man, Jesus, then you probably have the long-held belief that He was perfect. Because we use words like "blameless" and "sinless" and "spotless Lamb." We may even call Him the "perfect sacrifice," but none of those really equates to "perfect Man." There's never been such a thing.
There was fallenness in Christ's life. He was born a man. During His birth, He caused great pain to His mother. (I assume.) That's a curse of the Fall. During His life, He covered Himself with a tunic and other clothing. That's a byproduct of the Fall. He lived in a society under the Law, and was most certainly raised observing these laws, not to mention holy festivals and sacrifices and aromas pleasing to the Lord. Those things...only came about after the Fall. He was a Man surrounded by fallenness, and you cannot be a "perfect" Man in an imperfect world. It'd be impossible to function. In order to be a real presence in the fallen world, He had to embrace a certain measure of fallenness. That brings Him short of perfection.
And I like that better because it gives me the chance to reflect on what Christ really was: Not a perfect Man in an imperfect world, but an unbroken man in a broken world. That changes everything for me.
By nature of living in a fallen world, Christ took part in its fallenness. There's not another way. But unlike so many of us, He wasn't broken by it. I think about all the people I come into contact with in my life, and this is where I find grace - in knowing they are broken men and women. I am able to see past certain behaviors, hurtful words, defense mechanisms to understand that at their core, they are simply broken people trying to find an answer for their brokenness. I think about myself and the levels of brokenness in my life. I make no excuses for the way that I am, but I find grace just the same because I'm a broken woman in a broken world.
Jesus...was no such thing. Think about the things that break us and look how Jesus responded to them.
Money. Right? Most of us labor for money. We build our lives around what we can afford or can't afford or wish we could afford. There is only one time in the Gospels that we see Jesus make a comment about money. It is when He is asked whether they should pay their taxes, and He sends the disciple to the sea to draw out a fish to retrieve a coin to give to the government. He accepts that money runs the society in which He lives, but refuses to let money run Him.
Kids. Have you got kids? Do they stress you out? Not Jesus. He's out teaching and preaching, doing His ministry thing, and little kids start running up to Him. Think about your own kids for the moment - if they're running up to bother someone, does it look all tame and quiet and respectful like the pictures we paint of this moment? No. They're yelling and screaming. Climbing all over Him. Tugging on the sleeve of His tunic. And He doesn't even raise His voice. He welcomes them into His presence, lays His hands on them, and blesses them.
Relationships. How many people in this world don't love you? How many used to love you and for some reason don't any more? What about this phrase - "People suck." Have you heard that one? We get so down on ourselves when relationships fail. When other people fail us, we think it's our fault. We question what we could do better, what we should do differently, and so on and so on. Jesus did not let what other people say, think, or do change Him - His mission, His ministry, His inner dialogue - one iota. The rich young ruler heard what He said and chose to walk away. Peter denied Him three times; Christ came back and gave the disciple three chances at affirmation. Judas betrayed Him; Jesus told him he would do so but welcomed him at the table anyway. He understood that people will be people and regardless of who anyone else is, it doesn't change who you are. At least, it shouldn't. He understood that a broken world was not about Him.
I read the story of Jesus, and I think about all the circumstances He faced in which I probably would have been broken. I wish it wasn't the case, but it is. If my best friend died, and I wanted to get away and pray but the crowds followed me to my quiet place, I would grow bitter. I would start to think more highly of myself and demand that I deserve my quiet time. I would dismiss them and send them home. I would run away and hide.
It's easy to respond to brokenness with brokenness. But Jesus never did, and that's what makes Him special. And that's something I can strive for. It's a much clearer, and somehow simpler, goal than to just "be perfect." I can't be perfect in a fallen world. By measure of living here, I must embrace some of the fallenness. But I can refuse to be broken by it. I can choose faith over fear. I can choose courage over complacency. I can choose grace over grudges. There are so many things I can choose that would help me live unbroken in a broken world. I won't pull it off perfectly; I'm not that righteous. But I'm trying.
Because there's so much I can speak into this world if I refuse to let this world speak into me. Need proof? See: Jesus.